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What is Reincarnation?

“Reincarnation is not an exclusively Hindu or Buddhist concept, but it is part of the history of human origin. It is proof of the mindstream’s capacity to retain knowledge of physical and mental activities. It is related to the theory of interdependent origination and to the law of cause and effect.”
~ The Dalai Lama
Whence come I and whither go I?
That is the great unfathomable question,
the same for every one of us.
Science has no answer to it.
~ Max Planck, Nobel Prize-winning physicist



Q. What is reincarnation?

A. Cosmic bio-recycling.


Q. What reincarnates?

A. An energy vortex –

A “psyche-clone”.


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My “Miraculous” Experience on Shri Dhyanyogi’s Mahasamadhi ~ Ron’s Memoirs

At my death do not lament our separation
…
as the sun and moon but seem to set,
in reality this is a rebirth.
~ Rumi
“Death is truly part of life … ‘what we called death is merely a concept’.”
“This happens at the gross level of the mind.
But neither death nor birth exist at the subtle level of consciousness that we call ‘clear light.’”
~ Dalai Lama
“Birth and death are virtual,
but Life is perpetual.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings

Introduction

On observing noteworthy phenomena which we can’t yet explain by known natural or scientific laws, we sometimes call them “miracles” and may attribute them to a Divine power.

Like other rare saints and mystics my beloved Guru, Shri Dhyanyogi,  (“Guruji”) occasionally demonstrated  “miracles”  to foster faith in the Divine.  In his writings and lectures, Guruji explained that yogic powers (siddhis) might be attained via control of life-force energies, but that they were seldom displayed; that such powers are used “sparingly and on occasion for humanitarian and other discretionary ends,” but not “for self-aggrandizement.”

Previously, I told you my belief that Guruji has helped me from subtle planes, like a ‘guardian angel’, ever since I met him when he was approximately one hundred years old, and even after he died in India sixteen years later.

I believe that Guruji left his body consciously and intentionally, using his yogic powers; that his mental body survived the death of the physical body; and, that from subtle planes he continues to help humanity.

I’d like to explain to you my reasons for this belief.

In the Hindu tradition, when a yogi who has previously experienced the highest state of samadhi intentionally leaves his body, this is not the same as death of an ordinary person who has not attained self-realization. Such a passing is called a Mahasamādhi (great and final samādhi) and is the act of consciously and intentionally leaving one’s body at the time of physical death.

When I received shaktipat initiation from Guruji in 1978, I had already witnessed his yogic power to influence this level of reality from subtle planes. He had clearly appeared in my subtle inner vision when we were physically distant. Thereafter, I had other experiences of Guruji’s subtle powers, which I elsewhere share with you.

In 1980 just before Guruji returned to India from four years in the USA, he stayed in my apartment for several weeks. At that time Guruji’s American attendant and driver, Lackshman, recounted to me a brief conversation with Guruji following a sparsely attended public meditation program. Driving home, Lackshman had remarked to Guruji that it was too bad so few people had attended this event. Whereupon Guruji replied, “It’s not important. Most of my work is on other planes.”

And, once when we were alone in his room, Guruji told me that he came and went from his physical body as he pleased. [See Human Body – A Precious “Prison”? ]

Also, at Guruji’s meditation programs, I heard amazing stories from others who had experienced his extraordinary yogic powers. Perhaps the most memorable of these stories was that of Rudy, a Chicago teacher who decided to travel on his motorcycle to spend time with Guruji in California. But before reaching California, and while he was in Colorado, Rudy had an unexpected and “miraculous meeting” with Guruji.

On a curvy mountain highway in Colorado, Rudy’s motorcycle skidded off the road and careened three hundred feet down a steep incline. Just before hitting bottom, Rudy called out Guruji’s name, remembering Guruji’s assurance that “I’m always with you.”

Gravely injured, Rudy became comatose. In that comatose state he had a “near death experience” (NDE), which miraculously he survived, and later recounted in detail.

There on ‘the other side’ to greet and guide Rudy, and to save his life was Dhyanyogi. Thereafter, at a California retreat Guruji explained to Rudy that he had saved his life because Rudy still had much more work to do in this world.

Rudy’s vividly credible description of this amazing incident compellingly impressed me with Guruji’s power to manifest at will on subtle planes of “reality” and to thus influence what happens in this “reality”.

Besides my own extraordinary experiences with Guruji, and hearing of Rudy’s experience, I learned about numerous other “miraculous” experiences of Guruji’s devotees. (See eg “This House is on Fire, The Life of Shri Dyanyogi”, as told by Shri Anandi Ma.)

My Experience on Guruji’s Mahasamadhi

One of my most memorable mystical experiences of Guruji happened just after he left his physical body. At the end of August 1994, when Guruji was in India and I was in San Francisco, I was home asleep when I was suddenly awakened in the middle of the night.

With eyes open, I beheld in amazement an extraordinary and unprecedented vision – an otherworldly, multi-colored bird, translucent with a peacock-like tail and human-like eyes. Nothing about the bird appeared like any ‘real-life’ bird I had ever before seen, or might have imagined.

As I gazed in awe at this ethereal apparition, I was enveloped and transformed by a supernal aura of supreme Peace, which emanated from the bird’s radiant dark human-like eyes. I awakened in the morning puzzled, and wondered about that extraordinary apparition which had enveloped me with ‘peace that passeth understanding.’

The next day, still wondering about the vision, I was sitting at my dining room table when an ‘inner voice’ dictated to me a poem about death, a subject I hadn’t then been thinking about.

Listening to my muse, I quickly and spontaneously “channeled” this poem about death:

When we come to Earth
They call it a birth
When we leave,
They say we die.

But we really don’t come,
And we really don’t go.
We just dream our lives
But why?

To awaken as Bliss
From all of this,
Joyous that all is
“I”.



Thereafter, within a day or two, I received a rare call from one of Guruji’s early US disciples, Elyse (Indu) of Sacramento. She informed me of Guruji’s death – his Mahasamādhi – on August 29. Only then did I understand why I had been given this profound poem about death. And I immediately recognized it as a parting gift and message from Guruji.

Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas

Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas

So I recited the poem for Elyse. Then I told her about my puzzling otherworldly bird vision. She promptly and aptly interpreted that vision as a mythical Phoenix bird, symbol of immortality, resurrection, and life after death.

Thereupon, I realized that the bird’s human-like eyes emanating supernal Peace were Guruji’s eyes; and, that this unforgettable vision with experience of celestial peace was another parting gift and message from Guruji.

Epilogue

Many years have passed since that miraculous experience of Guruji’s Mahasamādhi, but I still continue to feel his subtle presence and often shed tears of devotion and joy, when I think of him or gaze at his photographic image.

Recently, almost twenty years after Guruji’s transition, I had a home visit from my friend Michael O’Rourke, a talented spiritual cinematographer who helped me launch SillySutras.com. I was chatting with Michael about Guruji and feeling his subtle presence, while seated in a reclining chair. After a while I had to excuse myself for a bathroom visit. When I returned several minutes later Michael reported to me his extraordinary experience of Guruji’s appearance.

As Michael was gazing at me while I talked about Guruji, he went into an altered state of consciousness. He then perceived another face morphing into mine – a face without glasses and with a longer white beard. It was Guruji!

Michael said that amazingly after I got up to go to the bathroom he still perceived the image of Guruji seated in the chair, until after I returned and sat down again.

Guruji once said: “All those who came to me for Shaktipat …. are my spiritual heirs. For my energy works through them.”

With utmost gratitude, I deeply feel that my continuing experience of Guruji validates his statement and supports my faith that he continues to help humanity, including Ron, even after his Mahasamādhi.

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Dreamers Awake, and End Double Bubble Trouble

“Thus shall ye think of all this fleeting world:
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream;
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.”
~ Buddha: Diamond Sutra
“We are like the spider. We weave our life and then move along in it.
We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives in the dream.
This is true for the entire universe.”
~ Aitareya Upanishad
I am, you anxious one.
I am the dream you are dreaming.
When you want to awaken, I am waiting.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
“The essence of all wisdom is to know the answers to ‘who am I?’
and ‘what will become of me?’ on the Day of Judgment.”
~ Jalaluddin Rumi
“Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment.”
~ Lao Tzu

 

Bubbles

Eastern mystics say that this world is an illusion
which they call maya or samsara;
that “all that we see or seem
is but a dream within a dream”
…*

Science now agrees that our material world,
and all in it, are impermanent
ever changing quantum energy systems or processes;
that “Matter has melted into Mystery.”

Our ego says we are a person,
living in a solid, material universe.
But science says that we are a conscious
quantum energy process.

So, we live in a double bubble of imagined solidity:
an ego bubble of imagined personal identity,
within a paradigm bubble of imagined world “reality”.

But what happens if our bubbles burst?

If our ego bubble bursts, what’s left of us?

If our worldview paradigm bursts,
what’s left of our “reality”?

If the universe is like a dream,
who is the Dreamer?

If each being is like a dream,
who is the dreamer?

If we are just a dream within a dream,
what will be if we awaken from our dreams?

The answer to each bubble bursting,
dreamer awaking question is the same:

“ETERNAL AWARENESS”

NOW!

*Edgar Allen Poe.

 

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Is Birth On Earth a Death Sentence?

“And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
~ Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi
“Death may be the greatest of all human blessings.”
~ Socrates
“Death is truly part of life … ‘what we called death is merely a concept’.”
“This happens at the gross level of the mind.
But neither death nor birth exist at the subtle level of consciousness that we call ‘clear light.’”
~ Dalai Lama




No matter how we strive,
No body leaves alive.

But we never really die – you see,
Just leave our physicality

To melt and merge with mystery,
The mystery of Divinity.



Ron’s audio recitation of Is Birth On Earth a Death Sentence?

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Can We Be Born-Again?

“As we live through thousands of dreams in our present life, so is 
our present life only one of many thousands of such lives which we enter from the other more real life and then return after death. Our life is but one of the dreams of that more real life, and so it is endlessly, until the very last one, the very real the life of God.”
~ 

Leo Tolstoy
“I tell you the truth,
no one can see the kingdom of God
unless he is born again.”
~ John – 3:3


© Elizabeth Lyle, www.dreamingheart.com



CAN WE BE BORN-AGAIN?

We’re born –
and born-again,

And born-again,
and born-again,

Until when –

We realize
we were never ever born.

And then –
we’re never born again.



Ron’s comments and recitation of Can We Be Born-Again?

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When Does Life Begin?

“Whence come I and whither go I?
That is the great unfathomable question,
the same for every one of us.
Science has no answer to it.”
~ Max Planck


Q. When does life begin?

A. Never.

Life never begins,
because it never ends.

Life transcends time.
Life is timeless.

Human conception, birth and death are virtual,
but Life is perpetual.

So, the beginning of Life,
or the end of Life,
are self-contradictory ideas arising in,
and subsumed by –

Eternal Mystery.



Ron’s audio recitation of “When Does Life Begin?”

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Dream Life

“Is all that we see or seem
but a dream within a dream?”
~ Edgar Allen Poe.
This place is a dream. 

Only a sleeper considers it real.
Then death comes like dawn,
and you wake up laughing
at what you thought was your grief.
~ Rumi
I am, you anxious one.
I am the dream you are dreaming.
When you want to awaken, I am waiting.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke




When we come to Earth
they call it a birth.

When we leave,
they say we die.

But we really don’t come,
and we really don’t go.

We just dream our lives.

But why?

To awaken as Bliss
from all of this,

Joyous that all is

“I”.



Ron’s audio explanation and recitation of Dream Life

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Meeting Tibetan Buddhists ~ Ron’s Memoirs

“The first preliminary practice consists of recognizing and giving value in its right measure to the precious human existence and the extraordinary opportunity that it gives to us to practice Dharma and to develop spiritually.”
~ Kalu Rinpoche – Foundations of Tibetan Buddhism
“[T]he reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate. This is why I believe the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics that is beyond religion.”
~ H.H. the Dalai Lama – Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World
“In the present circumstances, no one can afford to assume that someone else  will solve their problems.  Every individual has a responsibility to help guide our global family in the right direction.  Good wishes are not sufficient; we must become actively engaged.”
~ His Holiness the Dalai Lama, from “The Path to Tranquility:  Daily Wisdom”

 

Ven. Kalu Rinpoche  [1905—1989]

Ven. Kalu Rinpoche [1905—1989]



Introduction. I have been blessed by meeting and learning from many spiritual teachers, in addition to my beloved Guruji, Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas. Especially inspiring and helpful have been certain Tibetan Buddhist teachers.

Soon after my mid-life spiritual awakening, I was first exposed to Buddhist teachings via radio. For many years, I regularly listened to masterful New Dimensions Radio interviews by Michael Toms of spiritual teachers and authors, often Buddhists. And on Sunday nights, while driving home from visiting my parents, I regularly heard on KPFA recorded talks by Buddhist teacher, Alan Watts, a brilliantly insightful and articulate former Episcopal priest who had ‘converted’ to Zen Buddhism and moved from the UK to Marin County, California. Also for a short time I attended Sunday morning dharma talks and Zazen meditations at the beautiful and bucolic Green Gulch Zen Center in Marin County.

After my 1978 shaktipat initiation by Guruji I mostly focussed on Hindu spiritual teachings. But I remained curious about other spiritual and mystical traditions, especially non-duality teachings which I found not only in Advaita Vedanta, but also in Buddhism, Taoism and Sufism. (Ultimately, beyond religion, I became most focussed on certain universal wisdom principles at the heart of all enduring spiritual, religious, philosophical and ethical paths – like the “Golden Rule”. And to further those teachings I established The Perennial Wisdom Foundation.)

During a 1979 apparent ‘near death’ experience, I had visions of ethereal, luminescent and intricate mandalas – like those associated with Vajrayana Buddhism – which sparked much curiosity about Tibetan Buddhists and their mandalas. Soon afterwards I was synchronistically blessed with darshan of Tibetan lamas who in diaspora had started coming to the West. Most important for me were H.H. the Dalai Lama – who remains a living inspiration for me, and Kalu Rinpoche, a very venerable Tibetan Buddhist meditation master, now deceased and reborn.

For over thirty years I have been deeply inspired by core Buddhist teachings, as practiced by the Tibetans, though I never became a practicing Buddhist. In the 1980’s I honored that inspiration by receiving refuge and taking Boddhisattva vows from Kalu Rinpoche, and by receiving empowerments and teachings from both Kalu Rinpoche and the Dalai Lama, as well as other Tibetan lamas.

Taking Refuge. After meeting Kalu Rinpoche, I soon took refuge from him in the three jewels of Buddhism – the Buddha, sangha and dharma. In a brief refuge ceremony with this great yogi, I thereby symbolically committed to honor the Buddha – as my own true nature – and those teachings and communities which would advance realization of that Buddha nature.

Boddhisattva vows. Shortly after taking refuge I was inspired to take Boddhisattva vows from Kalu Rinpoche to altruistically help all sentient beings end their sufferings.

In taking these vows I was deeply inspired by this selfless Tibetan Buddhist ideal exemplified by the Dalai Lama, Kalu Rinpoche and many other Lamas. Never content with only their own spiritual evolution and salvation, Buddhist Boddhisattvas postpone their own ‘nirvana’ choosing to take continuing rebirths in order to serve humanity until every sentient being has been helped to liberation. For example, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, is latest in a long line of Boddhisattva Dalai Lamas, believed to be manifestations of Avalokiteshvara or Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion and the patron saint of Tibet.

Taking Boddhisattva vows symbolically marked an important transition from my prior aspiration to escape through spiritual “enlightenment” from this world of inevitable suffering. Rather than yearning to leave this crazy world forever, I took those vows aspiring to stay here in ways which might help all life everywhere, as I continued to observe and clear my own mental defilements.

Enlightenment as a Process. After taking these Buddhist vows, I didn’t expect an early departure from space/time causality reality. Instead, influenced by Buddha’s teachings that conditioned existence (samsara) has been going on for so long that all beings may have been each other’s parents in some lifetime, I began regarding “enlightenment” as a virtually endless evolutionary process in which – except for Buddhas and Boddhisattvas – we unwittingly participate for eons.

The Tibetan Tulku Tradition. Tulkus are emanations of those who retain spiritual consciousness and continuity through successive births. Except perhaps for rare Buddhas and very evolved beings, on rebirth almost everyone experiences ‘instant amnesia’ about conscious details of other lifetimes and prior spiritual learning, which details remain in our subconscious memory. The Tibetan Tulku tradition, aims to facilitate fulfillment of boddhisattva vows by locating reborn Lamas at an early age and training them from childhood to rekindle their consciousness of Buddhist teachings and practices. Tibetans have elaborate tests to prove that newly reborn Tulkus are truly who the waiting elders think they are, such as checking whether the child can recognize acquaintances or possessions from his previous life or answer questions only known to his former life-experience. For example, this process is portrayed in Kundun, the classic biographical film about the Dalai Lama. Some rare Tibetans (like the Karmapa) are able to foretell before dying where they will consciously take rebirth.

Karma. The Tibetans’ Tulku tradition is inextricably intertwined with their teachings about karma, rebirth, and Boddhisattvas. Although virtually all mystical traditions accept karma, afterlife and reincarnation, the Tibetan Buddhists’ karma and rebirth teachings and their Boddhisattva traditions especially helped me enhance identification with spirit while diminishing my psychological fear of bodily death.

According to Eastern philosophies, Karma is universal law of cause and effect applied at subtle levels to everything we think, do or say during repeated rebirths as supposedly separate beings. A similar concept is implicit in Western teachings that we reap as we sow. [Galatians 6:7-9]

As long as we self-identify as subjects separate from supposed objects of our choice or intention, our exercise of supposed free will creates karmic causes and conditions. Buddhism teaches that karma means “volitional action.” Any thought, word or deed conditioned by samsaric illusion – for example, defilements like desire, hate, or passion – creates karma. On death, the unexperienced effects of karmic causes, result in unavoidable rebirths.

What is reborn? “Reincarnation” is commonly understood to be the transmigration of a “soul” – viz. apparently circumcised spirit – to another body after physical death. But in Buddhism there is no concept of separate soul or individual self that survives death. Yet Buddhists believe in rebirth.

So, what do Buddhists say is reborn to experience karmic causes and conditions, or to fulfill Boddhisattva vows? I will simplistically and metaphorically share my understanding.

I was once told by Swami Sivananda Radha that during a private audience with the Dalai Lama she asked, “In view of Buddhist teaching that there is no separate self or soul, what reincarnates?” And His Holiness replied: “An energy vortex.”

The Dalai Lama’s explanation that an “energy vortex” is what incarnates was consistent with Western science. Since Einstein’s groundbreaking theory of relativity, quantum physicists have confirmed that in this world of space/time and causality everything is energy – every impermanent form and phenomenon, whether or not perceptible or measurable.

And for millennia seers and mystics have revealed that subtle mental energy bodies associated with physical bodies survive death of those physical bodies. Just as computers need an operating system to function, so do physical bodies. Like computers which operate via software, physical bodies are controlled by subtle mind-stuff energies (chitta). And when – like computers – physical bodies inevitably deteriorate and die, their mental software survives, and is reusable.

Thus, just as I am able to use with my new iMac the same OS X software system that operated my old iMac, I can (and may for eons) operate other physical bodies with the same mind-stuff energy that is animating this one. And those other physical bodies which will be using my pre-existing mental software, will probably display many of the same ‘operating features’ as my prior physical bodies. These mental operating systems can be gradually ‘up-dated’. But this usually requires a very slow process of intentional self-discovery and removal of mental obscurations and defilements.

Precious human birth. Before my spiritual awakening, like most other people, I never thought about being human, rather than some other life-form. But after meeting Guruji, I learned that Eastern spiritual paths identify human incarnation as an extraordinarily precious opportunity to evolve – beyond that of any other life-form; that Buddhist and Hindu teachings say that for evolution it is better to be born human than even in a heavenly realm.

Tibetan Buddhist teachings especially helped me realize that human birth is extraordinarily precious and rare. They persuaded me that although the unexperienced effects of karmic causes result in unavoidable rebirths, there is no guarantee that we will evolve on rebirths; that we obtain human bodies because of good deeds in former lives, but that without living compassionately and mindfully with continuing determination to transcend selfish behaviors we squander a rare chance to evolve spiritually.

In October 1982, in San Francisco, I participated together with hundreds of others in a Kalacakra empowerment given by Kalu Rinpoche. In describing the history and rare significance of that ceremony, Lama Kalu explained that our attendance arose from beneficial causes and conditions so mysteriously and statistically rare as to be well beyond ordinary human comprehension – like Jesus’ metaphor of a camel passing through the eye of a needle. For example, according to the Buddha, obtaining a human birth and following truth teachings is as unlikely as it is for a blind turtle to put its head through a single yoke which is cast on the oceans of this world.

In all events, Kalu’s teaching deeply impressed me with the preciousness and impermanence of human birth, and the importance of using it to evolve spiritually.

More memorable experiences with Kalu Rinpoche. Before receiving the Kalacakra empowerment, in 1982 I attended a public talk by Kalu Rinpoche at Fort Mason, San Francisco, about the Mahamudra experience, which he described (through an interpreter) as the quintessence of all Buddhadharma. Though I didn’t understand much of what was said, I intuited that I was in the presence of a great meditation master – like Guruji.

After talking about Mahamudra, Lama Kalu said that to help us understand Mahamudra experience he would give us a brief demonstration of that state of being. Whereupon, with ‘miraculous’ mind-power, he dramatically transformed the energy in that small lecture room. Suddenly my mind went completely still and I experienced a rare state of peace and oneness beyond comprehension or expression. By Kalu Rinpoche’s immense power as a meditation master, he briefly but unforgettably shared with us a glimpse of his rare and exalted state of clear mind.

A few years later, circa 1986-7, I had another memorable experience of Kalu Rinpoche’s powerful presence. Together with my daughter, Jessica, and friends Mark and Marsha Newman, I attended a public talk by him at the San Francisco Unitarian Universalist Church, one of the city’s largest religious sanctuaries. After waiting in a long line for some time, we managed to be seated in pews near the very back of the church.

Just as Kalu Rinpoche had ‘magically’ transformed the energy in the small lecture room where I heard him describe the Mahamudra experience, the energy ambience in that entire large church was palpably transformed upon his appearance at the pulpit. My daughter Jessica, had never before experienced such a spiritually powerful presence and was deeply impressed. Afterwards, she posted a picture of Kalu Rinpoche in her room, and though she never again saw him she was emotionally affected and cried on news of Kalu’s death in May, 1989.

After seeing Kalu Rinpoche at the Unitarian Church, I saw him again when he was interviewed by Michael Toms at the New Dimensions San Francisco radio studio. On his arrival at the studio he was introduced to staff and to me (as a New Dimensions director). Whereupon he came up to each one of us and humbly introduced himself with a friendly handshake. At that gesture, I was impressed with that great yogi’s humility – like Guruji’s. Later I was inspired to observe that: “The more we know we’re no one, the more we’re seen as someone”.

Learning to keep faith despite disillusionment. After many years of questioning, I have found a faith based life – beyond beliefs, dogmas, theologies or personalities. I was very much helped and encouraged in this process by another important and synchronistic encounter with Kalu Rinpoche, at a time of great disillusionment in my life,.

In the 1980’s after Guruji’s return to India I learned with shock that certain private behavior of a spiritual teacher (other than Guruji) with whom I had a close relationship was significantly inconsistent with his teachings and outer image. Though by this time, I knew of numerous instances in which well known spiritual teachers were credibly shown to be flawed humans, like the rest of us. But this was the first time that it happened with a teacher with whom I felt a close rapport and had spent much time. And I was emotionally upset and confused.

Whereupon, I learned that Kalu Rinpoche would be appearing for a morning talk and darshan at Kagyu Droden Kunchab a San Francisco Center dedicated to the ultimate benefit of all sentient beings, which he founded; that his Buddhist teachings would be followed by a question and answer session. I desperately wanted Kalu’s guidance about my crisis of faith. But I had to be in court that morning. So dressed in suit and tie, I came to the darshan with very limited time to spend there.

By the time that Kalu ended his talk, I had only thirty minutes left before needing to leave for court. Whereupon the translator announced that Rinpoche would now entertain questions, and virtually everyone in the room – including me – raised a hand for recognition. ‘Miraculously’ Kalu beckoned first to me to ask my question, which was:

“What is the proper attitude of a student on discovery of a teacher’s behaviors inconsistent with the teachings?”

Whereupon Lama Kalu gave an extremely wise and helpful thirty minute dissertation in response to my inquiry. As soon as he finished and began answering the next question, I was obliged to leave for court. I cannot recount details of what Kalu said, but the unforgettable essence of his answer was:

“Never lose faith in the teachings, even if you lose faith in the teacher.”

Only after years of introspection and more instances of disillusionment with teachers and others upon whom I had mistakenly projected flawless ethics, was I able to fully grasp Kalu’s wise teaching. During that process, I decided that “incarnation is limitation”; that no one is infallible; and, that “it is better to live the teachings, and not teach them, than to teach the teachings and not live them”.

A few years after my last face to face encounter with Lama Kalu, I was memorably reminded of his meditation mastery and his message of faith. On a beautiful week-end day while hiking in the forested higher elevations of Point Reyes National Sea Shore nature reserve, I decided to sit on a rock from which I enjoyed a panoramic view out into the ocean. As I beheld that inspiring nature scene in a meditative mood, Lama Kalu Rinpoche’s smiling visage fleetingly appeared in my inner vision. We never again met in this life, but I shall remain ever grateful for his blessings. With his encouragement I have never lost faith in this precious human life and in the infinite opportunities it affords us.

H. H. The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso.

H. H. The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso.




His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso.

Of all prominent living people, I am most inspired by H.H. the Dalai Lama – the spiritual leader (and former political leader) of Tibet. Apart from his Holiness’s spiritual attainments, which are beyond my comprehension, I am especially inspired by his universal compassion, wisdom, humility and humor.

I see him as a living exemplar of human potential – a Boddhisattva helping countless sentient beings and all life on our precious planet in infinite ways beyond religion or politics. Although my encounters with His Holiness have been impersonal – only as part of large audiences or via videos or writings – I feel a deep connection and harmony with him as a revered fellow human being.

Ever since an October, 1989 darshan, I have wondered whether that harmonious connection began in other lifetimes. At that time, I had the good fortune of being one of a limited number of people privileged to attend a ceremony to be conducted by His Holiness atop sacred Mount Tamalpais in Marin County, in a natural outdoor amphitheater. Because of limited highway access, the Dalai Lama was scheduled to arrive by helicopter. But his flight was delayed, and so we awaited his arrival.

Instead of waiting in the amphitheater, I decided to meditate in a nearby nature place. Then, on contemplating the Dalai Lama I experienced such heartfelt affinity and reverence, that I began an intense and protracted devotional crying jag. I became so overwhelmed with emotion of devotion that I was unable to stop weeping and enter the amphitheater even when I heard the sounds of the helicopter’s arrival. Ultimately, a compassionate Buddhist woman, who on her arrival had observed me crying, came out and taking me by the hand led me, still weeping, into the amphitheater.

The Dalai Lama is the only Tibetan teacher, including Kalu Rinpoche, with whom I have continuously felt such a deep devotional rapport – like my rapport with Guruji. He is regarded by Tibetans as the Bodhisattva of Compassion, and perhaps it is this subtle energy which opens my heart. In all events, though I don’t yet remember another life as a Tibetan, I intuit an important karmic connection with His Holiness, and regard him as a role model for living an ethical and compassionate life, regardless of our religious or cultural history.

Here are some of the ways in which I have been inspired by the Dalai Lama’s life and teachings:

Compassion. In his ever inspiring deportment, talks, and writings, His Holiness manifests and emphasizes the crucial importance of compassionate behavior – even with enemies. Drawing great inspiration from him, I have gradually come to regard everyone I meet – including those with whom I have disagreements – as spiritual siblings – brothers or sisters all sharing the same aspirations for happiness and peace of mind, despite superficial cultural differences. And, despite my pronounced lawyer’s tendencies to combatively judge all adversaries, more and more I have even found compassion for those whose ignorance of their true spiritual identity leads them to egregiously harmful behaviors. For example, at a time when I considered former US President George Bush, Jr., a war criminal and mass murderer, His Holiness publicly described him as “a nice man.” Hopefully, he privately influenced Bush – with whom he shares the same July 6th birthdate – to adopt more compassionate ethics.

Humility. His Holiness is regarded by Tibetans and by many others as a living Buddha. For, example, a Tibetan emigre attending a Tibetan Losar new year ceremony conducted in Minneapolis by His Holiness told a newspaper reporter there that “for Tibetans in exile, seeing the Dalai Lama is akin to Christians getting to meet Jesus”. Moreover, especially since his nomination for the Nobel Peace prize, His Holiness has become like a world-wide rockstar celebrity, attracting capacity audiences for all public appearances. Yet he remains exceptionally humble, describing himself as “a simple Buddhist monk” and member of the Human family. Despite his renown as a living sage, I have heard him several times answering questions with “I don’t know”. In my experience, this is very rare behavior for an elevated Eastern spiritual teacher. For example, I have never heard of any such humble response from elevated Hindu teachers regarded as avatars or ‘god-men’. I was especially drawn to Guruji who (despite his Hindu acculturation) was exceptionally humble, and even told my friend Joy Massa: “follow your heart, even if it contradicts my words”.

I have always felt ambivalent about spiritual teachers who pontificate as if they are infallible. For me, such behavior encourages adulation over inspiration. And I am uncomfortable with any spiritual group or tradition emphasizing adulation of the incarnate over adoration of the Infinite.

In my opinion, selfless humility is a supreme virtue. It is especially rare in prominent people who are subject to great flattery, praise and adulation, which can easily entice and inflate ego, the enemy of compassion and humility.   Those like the Dalai Lama, Guruji, Gandhi and Einstein, who have resisted such ego temptations I consider inspiring great beings.

Universal morality and ethics beyond religion. In public talks and in his recently published book “Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World” His Holiness explains how inner values “are the source of both an ethically harmonious world and the individual peace of mind, confidence and happiness we all seek”, concluding that “the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics that is beyond religion” which alone “is no longer adequate”. To me, this is a crucially inspiring message, which completely coincides with my philosophy and life experience. Before publication of “Beyond Religion” I established The Perennial Wisdom Foundation dedicated to elevating awareness of universal principles – like the ‘Golden Rule’ – at the heart of all enduring religious, spiritual, and ethical traditions. And His Holiness’s book and teachings have encouraged me to continue pursuing that path.

Politics, Economics and Ecology. Just as the Dalai Lama’s views on universal morality and ethics beyond religion have paralleled my views and inspired and encouraged me to pursue them, His Holiness supports liberal political, economic and ecological views with which I have long identified and pursued as a social justice advocate.

He recognizes as “a very great thing” Mahatma Gandhi’s sophisticated political implementation of ahimsa – the ancient moral teachings of nonviolence and non-injury. As an engaged Buddhist, the Dalai Lama outspokenly endorses Gandhian non-violent and compassionate political social action benefitting the majority of citizens, especially those underprivileged and exploited.

Thus, he rejects capitalist economics, as focussed on greed, gain and profits and outspokenly endorses democratic Marxist theory of equitable access to means of production and distribution of wealth. But, he rejects as lacking compassion and encouraging class hatred the so-called Marxism of the failed totalitarian former USSR, or China, and he objects to their excessive emphasis on class struggle.

Ecologically the Dalai Lama recognizes that Earth is severely threatened by ignorant human greed and lack of respect for all life on our precious planet. Accordingly, he urges that we become actively engaged as a global human family to resolve this crisis with compassionate solidarity, not just as a matter of morality or ethics but for survival of life as we know it. (See e.g. Spiritual People in a Perfectly Crazy World)

Conclusion. Thus I am supremely grateful for the wisdom and inspiration bestowed by Tibetan teachings and teachers, especially through His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, who for me is a living exemplar of human potential – a Boddhisattva helping countless sentient beings and all life on our precious planet in infinite ways beyond religion or politics.

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Dealing With Death and Dying ~ Ron’s Memoirs

“In order to know through experience what happens beyond death,
you must go deep within yourself.
In meditation, the truth will come to you.”
~ Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas
“As we lose our fear of leaving life,
we gain the art of living life.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“Face death to live life.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“Death is a vacation –
Eternal Life-force vacating a transient vehicle –
“a space-time soul suit”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“It is in dying to ego life,
that we are reborn to Eternal Life.”
~ Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi (edited by Ron Rattner)


Whats-Really-Real

Introduction

Physical death is inevitable and natural. But when I grew up it was largely a taboo subject in American society. Euphemistic language was used to describe death. Most Americans feared death, believing it ended life; they usually died in hospitals or other institutions, and not at home surrounded by family.

Growing up I didn’t think about death and wasn’t obliged to deal with it. Both my grandmothers had died before I was born. My paternal grandfather who I hardly knew died while I was quite young and I was not brought to his funeral. Until mid-life I didn’t suffer loss of any other dear person or pet, and didn’t much think about death.

Though the mystery of inevitable bodily death has long been a central religious and philosophical issue, my childhood Jewish and public school education did not encompass that mystery – nor did my non-liberal arts college curriculum.

Until my mid-life spiritual awakening, I self-identified only with my mortal body, its thoughts and its story, and I assumed that death of the body ended life. So I had no knowledge, opinion or belief concerning reincarnation or afterlife in ‘heaven’ or ‘hell’, or of an immortal “soul”.

Like most other Americans, I had an innate but largely subconscious fear of death, which I discovered during college days in Madison, Wisconsin. While imprudently and unskillfully swimming too far from shore in Lake Mendota, I nearly drowned and unforgettably experienced my usually subconscious fear of death. Fortuitously, in the nick of time, I was sighted and rescued by boaters. For many years thereafter, as a (non-swimming) relatively young and healthy person, I never again consciously confronted or philosophically explored that innate fear of death.

Then in my early forties, I had irreversibly transformative experiences of spiritual self-identity and afterlife: I realized that I was not merely my body, its thoughts and story, but eternal and universal awareness. And I began seeing visions of apparent past lives, and inner and outer appearances of deceased people, including my maternal grandfather and Mahatma Gandhi, my first inner spiritual guide.

So, I began accepting Eastern ideas of reincarnation and transmigration of an eternal soul, while gradually losing fear of inevitable physical death. Then, on meeting my beloved Guru, Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas, I learned that from childhood he had been preoccupied with two perennial puzzles: “Who am I?” and “What is death?”; that at age thirteen, inspired by irresistible inner longing, Guruji had run away from home in search of experiential answers to those eternal questions.

Inspired by Guruji, I developed a deep curiosity and philosophical interest in the spiritual significance of death and dying, reincarnation and karma. Elsewhere, on SillySutras.com I have shared many experiences, essays and poems on these subjects. (See, for example, http://sillysutras.com/category/afterlife/; also http://sillysutras.com/death-afterlife-rebirth-easter-reflections-on-resurrections/)

Ultimately I concluded from experience, intuition and intellect that cosmically there is no death; that “birth and death are virtual, while Life is perpetual”. (See e.g. http://sillysutras.com/know-death-to-know-life-know-death-to-know-that-there-is-no-death/ )

Consequently, I became ever more detached and less fearful about my own inevitable and perhaps imminent bodily death. But, my detachment about my own demise did not negate my compassion and concern for loss of others – especially dear ones – and my wish for their auspicious transitions. This became evident when at age sixty-one I was, at long last, confronted with my dear father’s last illness and passing.

Here is what happened.

Dealing with my father’s last illness and death

My dear father, Harry, came into this world on December 14, 1904, with a very strong body which served him well and without serious disease or disability until age 88. Then beginning in 1993 he had a series of ailments which proved terminal.

First he suffered an extremely painful and protracted case of herpes shingles for which he was treated with Prednisone, a powerful immune system depressant, which weakened him. Soon after recovering from that affliction, while already debilitated he had an intestinal hernia injury, so painful that he was hospitalized and suffered greatly before and after emergency abdominal surgery. Then he soon developed congestive heart disease with lungs filling with liquid and mucus. And finally he was diagnosed with lung cancer – a terminal disease which he had averted despite being a three pack a day cigarette chain smoker from teen age until age sixty. Amazingly, he had will power to immediately quit smoking cigarettes on publication of the 1964 US Surgeon General’s report confirming cigarette carcinogenicity and toxicity.

My Dad had enthusiastically enjoyed his long life, especially after his retirement and move from Chicago to the California Bay Area, near his children. But he was not anxious to prolong that life while he suffered painful terminal disease. Once, when I visited him in the John Muir Hospital, sadly he confided in me: “Ron, they put dogs and cats out of misery, but make people suffer. If Doctor Kevorkian was in this area and not Michigan, he’d be my doctor.”

Though, as a law-abiding “born-again Hindu” I had mixed emotions about euthanasia, I felt great compassion for my father and wanted to do whatever would be spiritually appropriate to mitigate his suffering and assure his most auspicious possible transition. So, I consulted my Brahmin Vedic pundit-astrologer friend Pravin Jani, father of Guruji’s successor, Shri Anandi Ma.

Pravinji recommended that I recite certain Sanskrit mantras and that I make two extraordinary charitable donations dedicated to my father: first, that I give to a chosen charity a gift of actual gold – not money; and second, that I purchase and give a holy cow to an Indian ashram. So, with heartfelt compassion for my father, I began reciting the mantras and arranged the unusual donations in his honor.

First, I donated rare American eagle gold coins to New Dimensions Foundation, where I was a Board member. Then, through arrangements by my daughter Jessica who was then living on Ammachi’s Kerala ashram, I acquired and donated to the ashram a holy cow, where it was gratefully received.

“Why” you may ask “is it considered propitious to donate a cow to an Indian ashram?” Because in India cows are are revered as sacred animals by millions of Hindus. Hindus believe that their Divine Avatar Krishna incarnated 5,000 years ago as an enchanting cowherd. He is often described as Bala-Gopala, “the child who protects the cows.” and as Govinda, “one who brings satisfaction to the cows.”

I learned about holy cows during my 1982 sacred pilgrimage to India. One of my most memorable images of that trip, was of stray cows roaming free and obstructing traffic on busy Calcutta streets as our tour bus approached the downtown hotel where we were staying. Later, in the holy city of Rishikesh, I communed with and kissed one of the sacred small cows on the Sivananda, Divine Life Ashram.

Holy Cow at Rishikesh 1982.1

Ron Kissing Holy Cow at Rishikesh, 1982


Many Indian ashrams and rural Indian families have at least one dairy cow, using it for milk, curds, butter, ghee and dung as fuel for pujas (ritual ceremonies). Thus, the cow remains a protected animal in Hinduism today, revered by most Hindus, who do not eat beef.

When I stayed at Ammachi’s ashram in 1992, the ashram had one cow. It’s limited dairy products were used mostly for feeding Ammachi and some swamis, but were insufficient to supply other ashram residents. However, with special dispensation, for a few days Jessica obtained for me one morning cup of curd (yoghurt) which helped heal the severe intestinal upset with which had I arrived at the ashram, suffering food poisoning from a Brahmin wedding feast in Ahmedabad. So the following year I was especially happy to repay that ashram cow’s blessing by donating another sacred cow to be its companion.

Apparently my bovine and gold donations and prayers did not prolong my father’s life. But I have faith that they helped his transition to a heavenly afterlife. When it became evident that Dad’s days here were numbered, at his request he was released from hospital to hospice care at home in March 1994.

To help, I started sleeping at my parents’ Walnut Creek apartment. On the night of March 10, 1994, sensing that Dad’s death was imminent, I stayed awake reciting Sanskrit mantras, especially a mantra recommended by Guruji for auspicious transitions of those destined to die. As I fervently recited mantras, I felt enhanced subtle energies and entered a clairsentient state. Then, though Dad was sleeping in another room, I felt the departure of his spirit. The next morning he was gone, and I helped my mother with required post-death arrangements.

After-death Afterlife Epilogue

That night, exhausted by the stress of prior days, I returned to San Francisco where I slept soundly in my ‘high-rise hermitage’. Just before awakening, and while I was in a semi-somnambulant state, my father fleetingly appeared in a vivid inner vision. He looked as he did during the prime of his life, rather than as a debilitated old man. He assured me he was fine and then disappeared. When I reported that sighting to Indian friends, they informed me that Dad had died on Maha Shivaratri (the ‘Great Night of Shiva’) considered the most auspicious holy night of the year by millions of Hindus.

Soon afterwards I received another extraordinary assurance of Dad’s favorable transition as I was driving to Shri Anandi Ma’s home in Antioch for a weekend meditation program. En route, I had picked up as passengers Anandi Ma’s parents and brother Umesh at their Berkeley apartment. Like his revered sister, Umesh then spent many hours daily in deep meditation often communing with Guruji’s ishta devata, Hindu monkey-God Lord Hanuman, considered an incarnation of Shiva.

As we traveled to Antioch, Umesh said to me: “Ron, I have a message for you from Hanumanji.” With extreme curiosity, I asked about that message. Whereupon, Umesh replied: “Hanumanji says, don’t worry about your father, we’re taking care of him.”

Six months later, on August 29, 1994, Guruji took mahasamadhi at age one hundred sixteen, and joined the heavenly host caring for my father and countless others. So, heeding Hanumanji’s assurance, I’m not worrying about my father. Instead, as I too approach the end of this precious lifetime, it is my heartfelt aspiration to help through self-purification and compassion not only family dear ones but all other suffering sentient beings with whom we remain inseparably connected.

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Jessica R., Saint Teresa of Lisieux, and the Rose Petal “Miracle”

“There are only two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
~ Albert Einstein

“I no longer have any great desires,
beyond that of loving ’til I die of love.”
~ Saint Teresa of Lisieux
“After my death I will let fall a shower of roses…..
I will spend my Heaven in doing good upon earth.”
~ Saint Teresa of Lisieux


lovely_rose_petals

On observing noteworthy phenomena which we can’t yet explain by known natural or scientific laws, we call them “miracles” and often attribute them to a Divine power. So some rare mystics and saints allegedly perform “miracles” for the good of humanity, and to foster faith in the Divine. Thus, after “miraculously” healing an official’s dying son, Jesus observed: “Unless ye see signs and wonders ye will not believe.” John 4:48

Here is a story about a noteworthy “miracle” involving my daughter Jessica and a mystery which I haven’t yet solved:

Following my traumatic 1976 divorce I did not share with Jessica and Joshua (my children who were then quite young) my intense new interest in Eastern religious philosophy. However, Jessica later independently became interested in Buddhism during a pre-college high school course in comparative religions. And she maintained her interest as she matriculated as a student at Amherst College, Massachusetts in the 1980’s.

In her 1983 application essay to Amherst, Jessica at age seventeen wrote:

“While I make no claim to being a Buddha –
a true master or enlightened being –
I have begun to understand that I must always be a seeker:
open and receptive to all new people, ideas, and things.
For although I have been extremely privileged
and have had the best possible education,
I haven’t yet and never will stop learning.
Having just recently discovered its spiritual dimensions,
I now know that a world of knowledge awaits me,
diverse and filled with surprises.
Fully aware of its vast potential and wealth,
I feel that I am ready to venture further into it,
and to explore what it has to offer.
‘I who do not know, and know that I do not know:
let me through this knowledge know.’
Idries Shah, The Way of the Sufi”


After her admittance and enrollment at Amherst, Jessica began doubting whether she was receiving there the “best possible education”. Seeking spiritual rather than secular knowledge, Jessica enrolled in and attended a brief accredited Buddhist Studies course in India sponsored by Antioch College. In 1987, after returning from India, she resumed her Amherst studies, and practiced Buddhist Vipassana meditations at a nearby Insight Meditation Society center. During a ten day silent meditation retreat there, she experienced a profoundly transformative spiritual awakening. Thereafter, her dissatisfaction with life at Amherst and her desire to go back to India gradually became so intense that she elected to leave Amherst for India, just one semester short of graduation. (Only after spending many years in India, did she return to complete her Amherst curriculum and post-graduate studies at Smith College.)

In India, Jessica initially spent time with Buddhist monks and practitioners in Bodh Gaya, a shrine where the Buddha was ‘enlightened’, and in Dharamsala, where the Dalai Lama of Tibet lived in exile with a large community of expatriated Tibetans. Then, planning to return to the US, she decided ‘out of curiosity’ to first visit a Hindu ashram in the state of Kerala, Southern India, the home of Ammachi, a renowned woman spiritual teacher. Instead of returning to finish her college curriculum, Jessica was so drawn to Ammachi and ashram life that she elected to live and remain there as a Hindu renunciate for many years. She was given by Ammachi the auspicious sanskrit name “Yogini”, wore only white attire, and contentedly lived the life of a Hindu nun.

While Jessica was living on the ashram in India, I consulted expert Vedic astrologers to interpret her chart or “karmic map”. I was told Jessica had an auspicious spiritual destiny, and that I would some day be “proud of her” spiritual achievements. Especially because of Jessica’s prior transformative meditation experience in Massachusetts, this seemed to me a credible prediction. So, I waited with interest to see what might happen with her.

In May of 1993, Ammachi was scheduled to make a world tour, including a stay at her San Francisco Bay area ashram in San Ramon, CA. And Jessica was to accompany Ammachi as part of her entourage. Jessica’s mother, Naomi, and I eagerly anticipated Jessica’s arrival in the Bay Area. While I continued to be supportive of Jessica’s life in India, Naomi was skeptical about Ammachi and strongly disapproved of Jessica’s life with her. She wanted Jessica to return home to finish her education and lead a “normal” life. Naomi was then living in a Victorian house in San Francisco, with a small raised front porch.

A day or two before Jessica’s scheduled arrival, Naomi awakened one morning with repeated thoughts of Jessica, and irrationally thereby intuited that Jessica was arriving then – early. She came downstairs from her bedroom and opened the front door, thinking that Jessica had arrived. Jessica was not there, but Naomi beheld that her entire front porch was strewn with rose petals of various colors. Since there were no nearby rose bushes, or other apparent explanation for the mysterious appearance of the rose petals, Naomi assumed that someone (probably Jessica’s “born-again Hindu” father) was playing a trick on her. Thereafter, when Jessica arrived as scheduled, Naomi reported to her the manifestation “miracle” of the rose petals.

Soon, Jessica recounted Naomi’s story to Ammachi. On hearing the story, Amachi gathered and handed to Jessica a packet of rose petals and instructed Jessica to give them to Naomi, “so that mother will remember this mother”. Jessica obliged, and on opening the packet Naomi observed that the rose petals from Ammachi were the same colors as those which mysteriously had appeared strewn on her front porch. So, Jessica believed that Ammachi had manifested the rose petals on Naomi’s porch, while Naomi remained skeptical about the incident, thinking it was some trick.

When Jessica told me that Ammachi apparently had graced Naomi with rose petals from “heaven”, I began continuously wondering about that incident. I had never before heard of any such manifestation attributed to Ammachi or any saint. And I wondered why such a special blessing was bestowed on Naomi, who was not a devotee of Ammachi but, rather, one who remained skeptical of Ammachi and her teachings. Also, I wondered why Ammachi would send rose petals to Naomi, rather than giving her some other spiritual experience that might assuage her skepticism and her consequent concern for Jessica’s future.

“Coincidentally” or synchronistically, soon after the rose petal incident, I read for the first time the autobiographical memoirs of Saint Teresa of Lisieux, the patron saint of France, entitled: “The Autobiography of Saint Therese of Lisieux: The Story of a Soul.” Teresa, who became the most popular of modern saints, entered a Carmelite convent at age fifteen and died there of tuberculosis, an unknown young nun, at twenty four. She would have remained unknown to the world but for her memoirs written at the direction of her prioress (in epistolary form) and for three volumes of her letters, all published posthumously.

In reading Teresa’s memoirs I was repeatedly reminded of Jessica. That little epistolary book reminded me of Jessica’s letters – of her way of sharing in writing her feelings about spiritual and inner matters. Also, apart from such syntactical similarities, I just constantly kept thinking of Jessica while reading about Teresa. But in no way did I then connect my repeated thoughts of Jessica, with the manifestation of rose petals on Naomi’s front porch, following Naomi’s repeated thoughts of Jessica. However, that mental/intuitive connection soon happened while I was on vacation in Northern New Mexico, visiting my spiritual author and poet friend Richard Schiffman.

In July, 1993, Richard and I journeyed to a remote Benedictine monastery calIed “Christ in the Desert”, situated in a very beautiful canyon on a wild river. Previously, I had asked Richard and others if they knew of any other examples of rose petal manifestations by saints, like Ammachi’s apparent rose petal “miracle” on Naomi’s front porch. Until then, no one was able to identify for me any such alleged manifestation by Ammachi or anyone else.

Not until my visit to the book shop at Christ in the Desert, did I find what I was seeking. At the book shop I found several books about Teresa of Lisieux, and I told Richard how Teresa’s autobiography had reminded me of Jessica. Thereupon, Richard remembered that Teresa had been associated with rose petal “miracles”; that during her life she often threw rose petals; that during her last illness she had announced: “After my death I will let fall a shower of roses”; and, that rose petal manifestation “miracles” (amongst others) were posthumously attributed to her.

Apparently, those “miracles” together with the publication of Teresa’s autobiographical diaries and letters resulted in such an outpouring of public sentiment that the Vatican “fast-tracked” petitions for her beatification and canonization in a manner unprecedented in modern times. When Teresa died, she was an unknown young nun. But for her writings about her inner life and aspirations, she would have remained historically unrecognized, and she would not have inspired millions of people to her ‘little way’ of spiritual devotion.

On returning to San Francisco from New Mexico, I began reading biographical materials about Teresa, and discovered some noteworthy parallels between Teresa and Jessica. Teresa – like Jessica – was a beautiful, precocious, sensitive and charismatic child to whom people were instinctively attracted. From childhood, Teresa – like Jessica – suffered from depression and other psychological insecurity issues without any apparent cause. Teresa – like Jessica – had hypersensitive hearing. In childhood, Teresa – like Jessica – could be obstinate about her wishes. From an early age Teresa – like Jessica – often showed wisdom and judgment well beyond her years. Teresa – like Jessica – had a simple yet elegant and eloquent way of sharing in diaries and epistolary writings her feelings about spiritual and inner matters.

On the eve of entering the Carmelite convent, Teresa wrote to her sister Agnes: “I want to be saint”, an aspiration which she often reiterated thereafter. In India, after soul searching and wondering about her life’s purpose, Jessica intuited and wrote in her daily journal her answer to that question: “I want to be saint”. (It is difficult to explain from her Jewish background, Jessica’s extraordinary aspiration to be a saint. Also it was surprising to me that Jessica assiduously kept journal diaries throughout her stay in India and prior thereto, a practice not instilled by her parents.)

The biographical materials about Teresa confirmed what Richard Schiffman told me at Christ in the Desert: that throughout her life Teresa loved throwing flowers and scattering rose petals as religious offerings; that shortly before her death Teresa proclaimed, “After my death I will let fall a shower of roses.” “I will spend my Heaven in doing good upon earth.”; and that rose petal manifestations were posthumously attributed to Teresa.

Also, l learned that just after Teresa’s twenty first birthday (January 2, 1894), she abandoned the sloping handwriting style which theretofore had been imposed upon her, and began to write in the way that came naturally to her: upright. In comparing photos of Teresa’s upright handwriting with Jessica’s upright handwriting, I perceived noteworthy similarities. But most noteworthy for me was comparison of photographs of Teresa and Jessica taken at similar ages. I found great similarities in their faces, especially in the eyes. To make sure I wasn’t hallucinating, one Sunday on visiting my beloved Jewish mother, Sue, I showed her a picture of Teresa dressed in nun’s habit, and asked: “Mom does this photo remind you of anyone?” Her prompt reply was: “She looks like Jessica, especially around the eyes.”

Here are the photos of Teresa and Jessica, which I found noteworthy:



By 1995, Jessica had a change of heart about continuing her life as a Hindu nun at Ammachi’s ashram. After much soul searching, she decided that she did not want to spend the rest of her life in India as a nun; that she wanted to finish her US education, marry and have children. And so after spending many years in India – in Bodh Gaya, Dharamsala, and Kerala – Jessica returned to Massachusetts to complete her Amherst curriculum and post-graduate studies at Smith College. At Smith she met and thereafter married David Channer. Their first child, Uma, was born on January 2, 2000, the 127th anniversary of Teresa’s birth on January 2, 1873.

In researching Saint Teresa, I learned that Father Jacques Sevin, a priest who founded the Boy Scouts of France, was one of her early and exceptionally ardent and influential devotees. And I found in his photo on the Internet an unusual resemblance to Jessica’s husband, David. Here are photos of Father Sevin and David Channer which I found noteworthy:



After Jessica returned to Massachusetts, I reported her changed status – from Hindu nun to American householder – to my friend Pravin Jani, father of spiritual teacher Shri Anandi Ma, and expert Vedic astrologer and pundit who had predicted an auspicious spiritual future for Jessica. His brief comment was: “Very good. She needs that experience in this lifetime.”

What does this all mean? Why did it happen? How did it happen?
I don’t know.
Did Ammachi manifest rose petals on Naomi’s porch? If so, why?
Did Saint Teresa? If so, why?

Until now, Jessica hasn’t wanted to even hear or talk about this subject. But for me it raises significant questions not only about the rose petal manifestation mystery, but about prevailing Eastern views on “reality”, afterlife, reincarnation, and evolutionary transmigration of the soul from lifetime to lifetime.

What do you think? Remember, your thoughts are important:

“We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts, we make the world.”
~ Buddha

© Ron Rattner – ““From Litigation to Meditation – and Beyond” An ex-lawyer’s spiritual metamorphosis from secular Hebrew; to born-again Hindu; to uncertain Undo.


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